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Your Green Cafe: How To Champion Sustainability In Hospitality

by Leon Spencer
Posted: October 20, 2016

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Sustainability isn't a buzzword. It has been around for a long time. And we, as a society, are increasingly understanding that sustainability is vital to improving, maintaining and, above all, sustaining human life. 

People are taking an interest and are becoming more aware of it all the time. There is a great opportunity here for cafe owners and managers to inject some sustainability into the hospitality industry and gain a competitive edge.

Despite the opportunity to practise sustainable hospitality, there is still room for improvement. As a society, we're producing more waste all the time. In Australia, our production of waste is far outstripping our population growth. 

To put it in perspective, in the years from 1997 to 2012 the population in Australia rose by 22 per cent. At the same time, waste generation grew by 145 percent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Kath Harding Eat Drink Talks Design

So what can hospitality business owners do to act and think greener?

Open Colleges Careers spoke to Kath Harding, Building Designer and Creative Director of Eat Drink Talk Designs.

Eat Drink Talks Design a company is a unique holistic hospitality building and deign service committed to rigorous sustainable design and planning.

The company aims to craft unique spaces that go beyond the standard hospitality experience with thoughtful, provocative designs, brands and environments.


The triple bottom line

Woman picking carrots, vegetables and produce in a leafy green field

Here's the good news: sustainability in the hospitality industry is more than just a feel-good thing to do, it can result in real savings on a number of fronts – not least, the planet. 

If you need any further incentive to build sustainable practices into your business, you don't need to look any further than the triple bottom line. “The triple bottom line was a term coined by a fellow named John Elkington in 1994 relating to business management. It essentially is the three pillars of sustainability that are people, planet and profit,” says Kath Harding.

This framework is a perfect way to gauge sustainable development in the hospitality industry. 

What you can do

A lady in a hat with a wheelbarrow advocates sustainability in hospitality by recycling and composting

There's a certain interconnectedness in the triple bottom line approach, where your success in any one of the three pillars has the potential to help drive success in the others. The moment you begin making moves to be sustainable in one, you'll generally begin becoming more sustainable in the others. 

“It’s amazing when you solve one problem by practising sustainability,” says Harding. “Because you’ll find that you solve ten other problems. Everything interrelates to each other.”

In a cafe, for example, if you replace all your light globes with low-powered LED bulbs, you'll not only reduce your carbon footprint, you'll also save a substantial amount of money. It's the same with appliances. Set the hot water system at 50 degrees Celsius instead of, say, 65 degrees, and you'll be saving money as well as reducing your carbon footprint. 

Likewise, if you have processes in place to make better use of your fresh produce, you'll reduce waste and probably find yourself spending less on food. For almost all of the consumables that you use in your cafe, this will be true. 

“Being sustainable is not just about sustaining society. It’s about sustaining culture,” says Harding. 
“But it’s also not just about sustaining the environment. It’s also about economic stability and sustainability, ensuring that the businesses who incorporate sustainable principles and strategies stand the test of time because of these things.”

Water use, for example, cannot be overstated. It is used for a range of purposes in a commercial kitchen or cafe. Doing something as simple as checking to make sure there are no leaks can help to save a lot of water – and money, making your café greener and leaner.

There is a range of common sense things that can be done to save water without the need for pricey installations. You could thaw food in the fridge or the open air instead of running it under warm water or put a plastic bottle into your toilet cisterns. These steps not only help you reduce water waste; they also help to save serious money on water rates.

Going green

Vertical garden, green wall and living wall on a building

Go green. Literally. Green walls and green roofs are really beginning to catch on. “They actually serve to purify the air around the building, which is quite incredible,” says Harding.

As well as being nice to look at, living walls and vertical gardens can help to protect a building from sun, rain, and temperature extremes. “In summer, they stop the building heating up and in winter, they stop the building losing heat,” says Harding. This puts less demand on reverse-cycle air-conditioning, minimises your café's carbon footprint and saves money.

Remember, when it comes to green walls or roofs, you have to plant right for your needs. If you choose drought-tolerant plants that don't require a lot of water or maintenance, a living wall is not going to make too much of a dent in your business in terms of water or time. 

A strategically-placed vertical garden wall not only provides the potential to save energy and reduce carbon footprint, it can also be used to complement the surroundings and gives a green café a unique appeal and feel for customers. “Place it in such a way where it compliments its environment,” Harding recommends.

The best part? Your green café wall can even provide your kitchen with its daily supply of fresh herbs or greens.

The green café checklist

To go green figuratively is an equally important step on the path to sustainability in hospitality. Below is a brief checklist of all the things you should consider doing when creating a green café:

  • Recycle all paper, glass, plastic, and metal 
  • Send food waste to compost or green waste, and keep oil for biofuel processing
  • Use stock management techniques that will reduce waste in general 
  • Use natural gas to run stoves and ovens where appropriate
  • Use a minim percent green electricity, or the equivalent in carbon offsetting
  • Replace light fittings with energy efficient globes 
  • Install water-efficient fixtures
  • Use biodegradable and non-toxic cleaning products 
  • Use products that can be recycled and are biodegradable or compostable where possible 
  • Use products made from recycled materials where possible 

Look for local producers

A local grower and male gardener potting and planting herbs in a wheelbarrow to sell to a green café

It's definitely worth making an effort to source food locally in the pursuit of sustainable hospitality. “We all know locally grown fruit is always full of flavour,” says Harding.

Besides that, there are other rock-solid reasons to seek out local fresh produce providers before going further afield for food. “When you buy from a local grower, almost always, that fruit or that vegetable has been picked within 24 hours of you actually eating it, which is far better for you than something that’s taken two weeks to get to you,” says Harding.The less distance fresh fruit and vegetables have to travel, the fresher they will be, and the lower their carbon footprint will be.

Most importantly, the less time fresh produce spends in a truck, or in a storage shed, the greater its nutritional value will be. “I think it’s terrific to know the farmers that supplies your vegetables and to meet them. I mean you know what’s been put on the plant” says Harding. Sure, if you go with local providers, there may be a greater seasonable variance to what's available. But this helps to bring variety and colour to the food you serve your customers. 

Going local also helps to support the local community which, in turn, can help to support your own business. “The benefits are extraordinary. Besides its nutrient value – you’re also supporting the local economy when you go with local providers” says Harding. “So, by using local produce, you are, in fact, being economically sustainable as well as environmentally sustainable.”

There's one last benefit to taking a sustainable approach to what you do: you encourage more green environment within your urban landscape. By buying local, you encourage more people to grow local, you encourage more green areas, and it’s probably fair to assume most of us want more greenery. 

Going green in the hospitality industry doesn't have to be a chore. It can be fun and surprisingly easy to achieve, and there's money to be saved in reducing your carbon footprint.

If you'd like a global career where no two days are ever the same, hospitality could be the perfect career for you. Explore your options here.


Leon Spencer

Leon works as a Content Creator for Recognition PR, specialising in business technology and financial services; as a Journalist for ARN and global enterprise technology publication ZDNet; and as an Online Editor and Journalist for niche industry publication, Print21.

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